Monday, March 31, 2003

Maybe they weren't "off target"????

Tomahawks off target, forcing missile rethink
March 31 2003

About five ship-fired US Tomahawk cruise missiles aimed at Iraq have fallen in Saudi Arabia, forcing planners to suspend certain routes for launches.

"In the case of Saudi Arabia, we did have a number of T-LAM (Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missiles) missiles that were reported down in their territory," said the US Air Force's Major General Victor Renuart from Qatar.

"We continue to use Tomahawk cruise missiles throughout the theatre. We have co-ordinated with the Saudis to hold on a couple of routes that might put them in a position where they could be close to any civilian population."

A US defence official, speaking in Washington on condition of anonymity, said "about five" Tomahawk missiles had landed in the Saudi desert without exploding.

Meanwhile in Turkey, villagers showered US soldiers with eggs and stones on Saturday when they arrived to recover pieces of a Tomahawk cruise missile which came down in eastern Turkey on Friday. It was believed to be the third US missile to land in Turkey since the Iraq war began.

Scores of people in Urfa province set upon four vehicles carrying about 10 American soldiers, breaking windows and shouting slogans against the US-led war in neighbouring Iraq, the Anatolian news agency reported.

Turkish gendarmes later intervened to break up the demonstration. There were no initial reports of injuries.

The Governor of Urfa, Sukru Kocatepe, said on Friday that a Tomahawk cruise missile, launched from US Navy ships in the Mediterranean, had fallen in the sparsely populated area, gouging a deep hole but not exploding.

The Anatolian news agency also reported that US soldiers gave about $US3600 ($6000) in cash to five villagers to cover damage caused to crops. "This amount of money does not cover the damage we have suffered but we accepted it to close the episode," said a local official, Mehmet Yilmaz. US officials were not immediately available to confirm the report.

About 90 percent of Turks oppose the war and those in the impoverished east, fearing further falls in living standards, say they have much to lose from the conflict.

Turkey opened its air space to US military aircraft and missiles after it parliament rejected Washington's request to station up to 62,000 troops along its southern border with Iraq to open a second front against the Iraqis.

In Saudi Arabia, the official SPA news agency quoted an unnamed high-ranking Saudi defence official as saying the kingdom had submitted an official complaint to the US over the latest incident there.

The official reiterated Saudi Arabia's position that it would not participate in the war with Iraq in any way, the agency said.

General Renuart said the problem with the Tomahawks occurred shortly after the launch phase of the missiles, before they began their cruise flight toward Iraq.

"Basically we have a situation where the Saudis have said, 'Can you see if we can figure out what has caused this?"' General Renuart said. "And so we have agreed with them to conduct a review of those launch procedures."

In Washington, the defence official was confident US forces at some point would regain the ability to fire missiles across Saudi territory along the suspended routes.

Major General Stanley McChrystal, the vice-director for operations for the US military's Joint Staff, told a Pentagon briefing that the suspension of the flights "really won't have a big effect".

Ships and submarines fire Tomahawk cruise missiles at land targets. The Pentagon said US forces had fired more than 675 Tomahawks during the war.


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